That same pride that you often see on the faces of new parents can been seen all over the Barneys offices today. That’s because today marks the day we’ve been looking forward to for ages: the official opening of our new downtown flagship in NYC. It’s not often we get to see such an amazing—and huge—project come to fruition, which explains why we’re so excited to share the news.
Opening on Seventh Avenue and 16th Street, the new 58,000 square foot space occupies a portion of the same city block where the company was founded and opened its first store in 1923. We’ve come a long way from that first discount men’s suit shop, but returning to our roots has us feeling both a bit nostalgic and excited for things to come.
“The fact that Barneys is returning to its original home means that we’re keeping a piece of the original DNA of the brand, but also taking our history and modernizing it for the Barneys of today and for our future,” Barneys COO Daniella Vitale said of the new flagship. “There’s such a warm place in everyone’s heart about that original store, and all of the brands who started their careers with Barneys were so excited about having a bit of a homecoming in returning to that space.”
Designed by the award-winning, NY-based firm Steven Harris Architects, the store spans five floors and includes men’s and women’s clothing, shoes, accessories, and cosmetics from some of our long-running brands, but also a few newer ones. Additionally, it includes an outpost of Blind Barber—a men’s barbershop that brings a fun social element to the usual shave and a haircut—and a treatment area for services like facials and body treatments.
Barneys’ partnership with the architects at Steven Harris has been an ongoing one, having begun in early 2012 with renovations to our Madison Avenue and Beverly Hills flagships. This is the first ground-up construction we’ve worked on together, though, and Harris, along with his partner designer Lucien Rees Roberts, knew that the starting point needed to be the feeling of the store.
“Like many things in the city, our ambition was to create something calm, serene, luxurious, and sensual—very distinct from what occurs outside on the street,” Harris said of his direction for the space. “Coming in becomes a kind of refuge—a calm environment where you can relax and enjoy looking at beautiful things. The pieces on display are very beautiful, so the ambition was to make a place where they are shown to the absolute best advantage.”
Barneys’ own EVP of store design and construction, Philippe Hum, echoed this sentiment. “We’ve created an intimate shopping experience, with rich luxurious materials and fixtures that feel special in their own right, but that also provide a beautiful and subtle backdrop to the merchandise,” Hum told us. “We’ve pulled the most successful elements of everything we have done in the past, and this store is the culmination of the best of the architectural elements along with the most refined fixtures.”
That sense of intimacy was one that the team worked hard to foster, along with Harris. “Because the store is in what was initially built as a residential building,” Harris said, “these lower floors weren’t designed for commercial use, and therefore the floor-to-floor heights are based on a domestic model, so the store has developed an intimate scale.”
Hum couldn’t agree more. “The new downtown flagship has a smaller and more intimate feel,” he told us, and added that this feeling was also based on the neighborhood Barneys is returning to. “Chelsea is very residential, and the scale of the store, interiors, and restaurant size are very appropriate for the setting.”
Cultivating the cozy comforts of home within a public space didn’t necessarily come easily, though. “The existing condition of the structure was the biggest challenge—many columns throughout the space, low ceiling heights,” Hum admitted, “but the design elegantly addressed the structural conditions to create a sense of openness. We needed to activate the space and engage the customer at multiple levels.”
And those levels—all five floors of the store—do come together thanks in large part to a four-story atrium that has been opened in the center of the flagship, allowing us to pay homage to one of the most iconic elements of the original Barneys store there: a soaring Andrée Putnam-designed staircase.
“I think if you ask anyone who remembers the original store, the thing that everyone recalls is the stair,” Harris said. “That was the thing that was the most beautiful, but it was also about display and an element of performance—being watched as you descended the stairs. It was truly the center of the space and the most dramatic element, and we wanted to bring that sense of importance to the new staircase as well.”
Vitale concurred, saying, “For people who were Seventh Avenue Barneys shoppers, they’ll certainly remember that staircase in a positive way. It’s such an iconic memory for people.”
The staircase not only harkens back to the original store, but also was the first thing that came to mind for Hum when asked what aspect of the project he was most proud of. “The opening of the atrium and the staircase were carefully planned with Steven Harris and calculated down to the inch for the right proportion,” he told us. “The atrium is totally new—three floor slabs were cut back to create the open volume—and both the staircase and atrium were feats of engineering and sculptural challenges that really shape the experience in the store. The fine artistry of the glass atrium and execution were tricky, but highly rewarding when completed.”
That feeling of pride has been part of the project since even before construction began. “This project is one of those rare labors of love, since we’re building it from the ground up,” Daniella Vitale said. “Every other store project has been a renovation or a cosmetic job, but this is the first time we’ve gotten to build anything from the ground up since I’ve been at Barneys. We’ve been talking, fantasizing, and dreaming about this moment for more than five years, so it’s so exciting to see it finally coming to fruition.”
To get a sense of why we’re so excited and to see the finished product, check out the new downtown flagship for yourself. The store is open beginning today at the corner of Seventh Avenue and 16th Street, so stop by to help us welcome the newest member of the Barneys family.